The Churches of Rome tour included three of the most suggestive Papal Basilicas of Rome: the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano and the Basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura. To simplify transportation among the Eternal City.
The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (in english, Basilica of St. Mary Major), is the fist roman church we will visit during our Churches of Rome Tour. This is the most important Papal Basilica dedicated to the cult of Virgin Mary. The Basilica was built at the top of the Esquiline Hill, above Roman remains.
The original church was built between 432 and 440 by Sixtus III, after the Council of Ephesus, which decided in 431 the dogma of the divine maternity of Mary. The tradition says that the church was built at the will of Pope Liberius, after a miraculous snowfall on the 5th of August 356.
We will start the guided tour to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore by admiring the facade, re-designed in the 1700s by Ferdinando Fuga and superimposed on the previous one from the 13th century, still visible behind the Loggia of Blessings.
In the inside of the Basilica we will find the three naves, divided by columns, with the plan has a look surprisingly similar to the original one. We could see the half dome of the apse with the majestic coronation of Mary.
During the visit to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, we will see the profound transformations of the Basilica, which include the two lateral chapels (Sistina and Paolina), and the altar, with one of the most holy icons of the Middle Ages: the pictures of Mary, Salus Popoli Romani.
The second step of the tour among the most important roman churches is in San Giovanni in Laterano, also known in english as Basilica of St. John Lateran.
This is the cathedral dedicated to the Most Holy Saviour and to the saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. The Basilica, which counts 5 naves, was built at the will of Constantine, approximately in 314. It was, until the end of the Avignon period, the most important church of Christianity, the place where the Pope lived and exercised papal power. Due to damage and restorations, St. John Lateran has changed a lot over the centuries.
We will begin St. John Lateran’s tour from the majestic facade made by Galilei, crowned by fifteen colossal statues of Christ, John the Baptist and Evangelist, and the Doctors of Church.
In the atrium, we may admire the bronze panels of the central door, which come from the Curia of the Roman Forum. The last door on the right is the Porta Santa (Holy Door). The inside of the Basilica will show us the architectural design of the renovation, which was ordered to Francesco Borromini by Innocent X for the Jubilee of 1650. We will continue the tour to the nave, where is the tabernacle of Giovanni di Stefano, and we could admire the transept of the Papal Basilica, one of the most representative examples of Roman Mannerism of the end of 1500s, visiting then the presbytery and the apse, both renewed between 1884 and 1886.
Exiting the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, we will admire the tallest obelisk of Rome (31 metres!), brougth there from the Circus Maximus at the will of Sixtus V.
Last step of the Churches of Rome tour will be at the Basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura, known in english as St. Paul Basilica outside the Walls. The Christian tradition says that in this place, on the Via Ostiense, was buried the Apostle Paul. Initially a burial chapel was built, then transformed into a Basilica and consecrated, according to the tradition, in 324 by Pope Sylvester I.
The Basilica’s reconstruction was terminated in 395, under the emperor Honorius. The Basilica of St. Paul acquired, over the ages, a more and more important role for pilgrims visiting Rome. For that reason, the Basilica has been enriched with artworks and magnificent historical artifacts. Many of them were destroyed by a fire, the night between the 15th and 16th of August 1823. At the same time, the fire destroyed a great piece of the Basilica itself. Only the transept and a part of the facade were saved. The current look of the St. Paul Basilica is due to Leone XII, who ordered reconstruction on the model of the original architecture.